A Whole Lot of Pep in His Step


Brian has a pep in his steps these days, and he prides himself on arriving early to his job at Canteen so he can earn extra money.

With support from MOKA’s Job Developers and Canteen staff, Brian has excelled as an order picker since joining Canteen in Norton Shores. He likes the job’s perks, including higher wages, bonuses for being on time, and a free snack and drink after every shift.

Brian continues to take initiative to learn more about the machines and troubleshoot problems on the line. “I guess you could say it helped me with some independence,” Brian says. “There are quite a few things I learned at the job simply because I was curious and decided to look into it.”

Ready for a change, Brian stepped out of his comfort zone when he accepted the job at Canteen. Brian previously worked in food service and was looking for new employment last summer. Around the same time, Canteen reached out to MOKA about a donation and hiring people in Employment Services. Kyren, who is in the same program, started in November.

“Brian and Kyren are very punctual and reliable,” says Tom Joppie, Canteen’s Customer Service Manager. “They caught on quickly and they’re doing a good job.”

Job Developer Jamey Curtis supported Brian and Kyren with their job searches and the application and interview process. She stays in regular contact to provide job supports as needed.

“He’s got a whole lot of pep in his step because he’s getting challenged physically and mentally,” Jamey says of Brian.

Community Supports Supervisor Tasha Oltman says that Brian has started to “come out of his shell” at work and with MOKA staff since starting at Canteen. “He is learning valuable skills on the job as well as exploring how developing relationships can contribute to a positive work culture,” Tasha says.

Canteen, a nationwide vending and refreshment services company, is committed to diversity and inclusion as well as hiring veterans and people with disabilities. Canteen’s parent company, Compass Group, has been named one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity four years in a row by Forbes Magazine.

Tom Joppie hired people from MOKA’s Jobs program in a previous role at a Muskegon grocery store. He discussed the idea with Jeff Wisniewski, District Manager, who then reached out to MOKA. “They were able to find a couple of good candidates, and so far they have been working out really well,” Joppie says.

Brian and Kyren work on the second-shift pick line, fulfilling orders for the route drivers and merchandisers. Faith, a second-shift team leader, also has a family member with disabilities and agreed to help them on the job.

“We need orders to be picked properly and accurately and on time, so they are done and ready for the drivers the next morning,” Joppie says.

Brian was initially a little nervous but says “that is just something that happens when you try something for the first time.” He lives independently and enjoys having some extra money to help with his dog, Stella.

Working at Canteen has motivated Brian to be on time to earn the bonuses, as well as take on more responsibility. He picks snacks off the line and organizes them in the totes. He also cleans and breaks down boxes and other tasks.

“I learned how to operate some of their systems for shipping the stuff out,” Brian says. “I can do some minor troubleshooting if there is an error in the machine when it comes to sorting out the items.”

Brian has participated in MOKA’s Employment Services for several years and received other services in the past. “They definitely do help with the interviewing and looking for a job, and they helped coach me and look after me during the very beginning of the job and slowly eased out of it,” Brian says.

Brian is very responsible and has the hard skills down, Jamey says, noting the job has improved his attention to detail and organization skills. Jamey offers Brian tips on social skills and interacting with co-workers. She encourages Brian to advocate for himself and ask questions when he doesn’t understand something. “He’s come a long way with that,” Jamey says. “He asks a lot of questions now, and it’s great to see.”

Jamey also helps Brian problem-solve real-life issues that affect his employment, like car problems. And she’s been able to make Brian laugh. “He’s a lot more comfortable,” Jamey says. “So even if he doesn’t think it’s funny, he’s reading social cues.”

After working in retail, Kyren appreciates being out of customer service jobs and the extra support he receives from Jamey and his Canteen supervisor. “They give me good advice,” he says.

Kyren admits he is shy at first, but once he gets comfortable, he flashes a big smile and jokes around more. Having a job helps him stay motivated, and he uses money from his paycheck to work on his truck.

“They make sure I am all right and that I get my job done and make sure everything is okay,” Kyren says. “It’s kind of like a stress reliever. It keeps me going about my day.”

Tasha is thrilled Canteen reached out and says they have been a great employment partner. The goal of Employment Services is to help people get jobs in the community, build positive relationships with co-workers, and above all, be a fulfilled and contributing member of the community. An added bonus is making a nice wage while doing it.

“From the beginning, they were so warm and welcoming,” Tasha says. “And it sounds like they just have a really good company overall. They talked about how they have long-term employees, and that was one of the things that was really attractive to us too.”

Story by Marla Miller. Photos by Lara Parent.